“Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence are poised to revolutionize various aspects of the legal profession. Cultivate resilience by maintaining a positive attitude, embracing adversity as an opportunity for growth” – Ritesh Kumar, Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

Could you please share with us your journey into the legal profession? What initially inspired you to pursue law, and what challenges did you encounter during your formative years in the field?

My journey into the legal profession was not pre-planned but rather a serendipitous occurrence that unfolded unexpectedly. 

While my initial career aspirations varied in many different directions, fate had other plans in store for me.

I was doing a chartered accountancy course along with my graduation when I took Delhi University’s LLB entrance test in the final year of my graduation and got selected. I completed my law in 2002 from the Campus Law Centre, Delhi University, and that is how my journey into the legal world began. 

In my initial years into the profession, I had the privilege to work under Hon’ble Justice Siddharth Mridul, who was then the Standing Counsel for Union of India in Delhi High Court and thereafter with Mr. Amarjit Singh Chandhiok, Senior Advocate. Working in the office of a standing counsel does provide a great deal of opportunity and it immensely benefited me too. Working in the most sought-after senior’s chamber in Delhi High Court inculcated discipline. It not only shaped my career but has also enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined.  

With a special penchant for litigation, I decided against joining a law firm and chose to establish my own independent practice. Despite my enthusiasm, the journey was not without its challenges. As a first-generation lawyer, I lacked the familial connections and resources that are often advantageous in navigating the legal landscape. However, I refused to let these obstacles deter me. Instead, I embraced them as opportunities for growth and learning.

Yet, it was precisely this avant-garde journey that imbued me with a unique perspective and a tenacity to succeed. I embraced each challenge as an opportunity for growth, seizing every chance to expand my knowledge and hone my skills.

What motivated you to pursue and successfully complete the Advocate-on-Record (AOR) exam for the Supreme Court of India?

Initially, I did not realise the importance of being an AoR and did not take the examination despite being eligible in 2007-2008 itself, i.e., after 5 years of practice. However, I realised my mistake when it became evident that Supreme Court practise is an integral part of litigation and being an AoR is a clear advantage, more so, for a first-generation lawyer like me. Many of my peers went on to successfully qualify the exam and with their encouragement and support I also took the exam and became an AoR in my first attempt in 2011. 

You have been involved in cross-border commercial disputes. Could you elaborate on the unique challenges and strategies required in such cases?

Since arbitration is a mechanism of resolution of disputes that, unlike court, takes place in private, it is always open to the parties to choose the substantive law and law governing the arbitration agreement as well as the seat and venue of the arbitration. Problems arising out of an arbitration call for the application of proper law of the contract, which is the law governing the contract creating the substantive rights of the parties; proper law of the arbitration agreement; and curial law, i.e., the law governing the conduct of the arbitration. Lawyers are confronted with situations where all these three may differ. Thus, one of the primary challenges in cross-border disputes is jurisdictional issues and matters related therewith. Determining the appropriate forum for resolution can at times be complex, owing to the parties based in different countries with conflicting laws and regulations. Also, building strong relationships with local counsel can be instrumental in achieving successful outcomes in cross-border disputes.

As a member of Insol International, how does your expertise contribute to resolving insolvency and restructuring matters?

Development in any other branch of law in India, in all likelihood, cannot be matched by the pace at which the insolvency regime contained in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code has evolved in the short period that it has been in existence in India. 

INSOL International is a federation of national associations of professional who specialise in turnaround and insolvency. It facilitates key stakeholders to come together and share experiences by promoting best practices and providing a forum for debate on key issues facing the industry and the profession. Through this organisation, I am constantly exposed to the latest developments, trends, and best practices in insolvency and restructuring from around the world. This global perspective allows me to adapt and apply innovative strategies that have proven successful in different jurisdictions.

With your extensive experience in telecommunications and technology-related litigation, how do you anticipate the impact of emerging technologies on future legal disputes?

The rapid pace of technological innovation has reshaped the legal landscape, presenting both opportunities and challenges for lawyers and their clients.

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are poised to revolutionize various aspects of the legal profession, including case analysis, document review, and predictive analytics, which have the potential to streamline legal processes, improve decision-making, and enhance the efficiency of legal services. 

Our Supreme Court has already started publishing the transcript of the hearing in select cases using Artificial Intelligence to transcribe hearings. 

I see innovative technologies reducing administrative work for lawyers. However, it is unlikely that technologies and AI will replace human lawyers and judges. 

You’ve been appointed as Arbitrator by the Delhi High Court multiple times. How does this experience contribute to your understanding of legal procedures and responsibilities? Please share some insights from this role.

The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India had recently remarked that the arbitration space in India resembles an old boy’s club. He highlighted how only retired judges dominate arbitral appointments, and, in the process, several promising candidates (such as lawyers and academicians) are overlooked. 

I am glad to share that the Delhi High Court does appoint lawyers as arbitrators.  Serving as an arbitrator appointed by the Delhi High Court is a significant and enriching experience that has deepened my understanding of legal procedures and responsibilities in dispute resolution. This role has afforded me invaluable insights into the complexities of arbitration proceedings and the nuances of adjudicating disputes outside the traditional court system. Additionally, this role has underscored the importance of effective case management and maintain procedural integrity in arbitration proceedings.

Beyond the courtroom, how do you engage in community outreach or pro bono work to promote access to justice and legal literacy among underserved populations?

Being the first one, in my entire family, to choose law as my profession, I do recognize the barriers that many individuals and communities face in accessing legal assistance. My office is open to everyone and anyone seeking any legal assistance. I am also empanelled with The High Court of Delhi (Middle Income Group) Legal Aid Society and I actively seek opportunities to leverage my skills and expertise to make a positive impact outside of traditional legal settings. My pro-bono work is driven by a deep-seated belief in the importance of promoting access to justice and legal literacy for all. 

Outside of law, what hobbies or interests do you pursue that contribute to your professional development or enhance your perspective as a legal practitioner?

Balancing professional with personal interests is essential for maintaining a well-rounded perspective as a legal practitioner. One of my passions outside of law is literature and writing. I try to keep abreast of current affairs and make it a point to read couple of newspapers including financial ones.  Additionally, I am an avid traveller and explorer. Traveling not only exposes me to diverse cultures, languages, and customs but also challenges me to adapt to new environments and navigate unfamiliar terrain—a skill that is invaluable in the legal profession, where each case presents its own unique challenges and complexities.

Can you share a pivotal moment or case from your career that significantly influenced your approach to law and litigation?

I have had opportunities to represent the Government of India and was part of the teams led by the Learned Law Officers before the Constitution Benches of the Supreme Court in several matters involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution of India. I have handled numerous cases which are significant for one reason or another.  

One pivotal moment in my career that profoundly influenced my approach to law and litigation was a case in the Supreme Court arising out of a controversial phone tapping. The issue involved as to whether a public figure has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Guidelines were issued by the Supreme Court which led to framing of the standard operating procedures (SOP) by the Government for legitimate phone tapping. 

Having said that, I approach each case, with utmost sincerity, and take it as an opportunity to serve the clients in getting justice which they deserve. 

With over two decades of experience in the legal profession, what suggestions or advice would you offer to the upcoming generation of aspiring lawyers and legal professionals navigating their way through the complexities of modern legal practice?

I would like to share with the upcoming generation of aspiring lawyers and legal professionals navigating the complexities of modern legal practice to embrace lifelong learning. The legal profession can be demanding and unpredictable, with its fair share of setbacks and challenges. Cultivate resilience by maintaining a positive attitude, embracing adversity as an opportunity for growth, and developing coping mechanisms to navigate stress and uncertainty effectively. You must uphold the highest ethical standards in all your interactions, prioritize the interests of your clients, and adhere to the rules of professional conduct and legal ethics. 

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